Wednesday, August 01, 2012

RIP Gore Vidal 1925-2012

When I was 13 or 14 I read book that changed the way I think. That book was Burr by Gore Vidal. It's a historical novel written from the point of view of one of the most notorious figures in American history, the 3rd Vice President Aaron Burr who  is remembered for killing the 1st Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel in New Jersey.

The American history I was taught in grade school and junior high made the founding fathers into almost godlike beings that were mostly infallible,
then I read Burr. Vidal cut them all down to size.  George Washington an incompetent general with an enormous rear end; Thomas Jefferson, ,a hypocrite who schemed and bribed witnesses in support of a false charge of treason against Burr after almost losing the 1800 election to him; and Alexander Hamilton who spread false rumors about his relationship with his daughter according to the fictional Burr memoir in the book.

This book opened my eyes and helped me to think critically and not accept everything I heard in a classroom as fact.A few years later a teacher kept saying one of the causes of the civil war was about states rights. I kept asking what states right other than owning another human being did they go to war over. She couldn't answer that and wasn't happy with me.

After Burr I was hooked. Julian was a great novel in the same format about a Roman Emperor after Constantine who tried to restore the Pagen gods  and Creation which includes Zoroaster, Socrates, the Buddha, Mahavira, Lao Tsu, and Confucius.

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